Second Self
by Anna S.

The taxi winds its way through traffic slowly, giving Nathalie and Faith time to take in the city. Between the buildings, the last glow of sunset peeks through, slashing light across the commuters' faces.

In her head, Faith sees Buffy's letter to Willow, written in Buffy's messy script: I think I might be falling in love with Rome. Hopefully, it won't end like the rest of my relationships. I think it's time for that streak to end.

The car stops. Next to her, Nathalie tenses. "Are you sure this is gonna be okay?"

"Oh yeah. Me and B, we go way back."

She pushes Nathalie up the steps ahead of her. But when they knock, it's Dawn who's standing in the doorway, smiling at both of them.

Before they're even inside, she starts chattering, giving them an explanation of where Buffy is, what Rome is like, what the other girls are like, and how much she loves Italy. Nathalie seems relieved to not have to talk.

"So we put a room together for you, Nathalie- we didn't know you were coming, Faith," Dawn says, before finally stopping.

"I thought I'd make it a surprise. And it's cool, the couch is fine."

Dawn shows Nathalie into another room and they disappear, lost to gossip and explanations. Faith surveys the apartment. It appears small, but she knows that's just a cover for the training facilities downstairs. The only sign that this isn't a normal household is the ancient looking book sitting next to Dawn's homework.

She means to stay up until Buffy gets back from patrol, so she puts on Italian TV. But even their foreign screeching can't keep the heaviness from her eyelids, and eventually, she falls asleep.


A jetlagged Nathalie sleeps through the entire morning, leaving Buffy and Faith to talk awkwardly to each other. Faith wonders why she was so eager to see Buffy, when she just talks to her with a stiff politeness. It's Dawn who keeps the conversation going, who talks them into going out for lunch.

While Dawn waits for them outside, Buffy asks her why she came.

"I have to have a reason for everything I do?"

"Did Giles send you?"

"No, I just- I thought I could help. I can help. Training these girls is the one thing I know how to do, B. Jail and slaying doesn't leave you with a ton of job options."

"There's always the mafia," Buffy mutters, but it's more out of habit than any real malice. At the cafe, Dawn orders for all three of them. Buffy offers up a quiet thank you in Italian, but speaks English the rest of the time.

"You really need to start working on your Italian," Dawn tells her.

For months, Faith wandered Europe, learning just enough French and German and Italian to get by. For most things, you don't need new words.

Fuck me and fuck off are the same thing in every language.

She liked how it felt, how it distanced her from the rest of the country. The foreign words rolling off of everyone else's tongues set her apart. And Buffy's never been good at being just another face in the crowd.

As they wander back from lunch, Dawn and Buffy link arms, while Faith walks next to them, drinking in the city.

"Why Rome?" she asks.

For a second, she thinks Buffy's gonna shrug, and say it was good as any other place, but then a smile breaks across her face. "I like how you can be walking, and it's just like any other city, and all of a sudden, there's a fountain from like a thousand years ago. It doesn't make any sense."

"Also, gelatto," Dawn adds.


Their fists pummel the punching bags like jack hammers. Michelle,Sara, and Valentina, Faith reminds herself as the girls fall into a rhythmn. On the mat on the other side of the room, Nathalie is doing her best to defend herself from Buffy's kicks.

"Faith, can we go patrolling with you and Buffy tonight?" Michelle asks, pausing to wipe the sweat from her forehead.

"Knock me down and maybe we'll think about it," she says.

Michelle approaches immediately, eyeing her carefully. From what Faith has seen, she's fast and athletic, but she relies on that too much.

They circle each other for a few seconds, and then Michelle charges in. Faith blocks her first kick easily, and tries to flip her to the ground, but she dodges.

Faith bounces on her toes, feeling herself laugh at the familiar dance. She could do this all day. But the next time Michelle approaches, Faith catches her shoulder and almost gently, lowers her to the ground.

"Maybe next time," she says as Buffy walks over. Without a word, Buffy wraps her arm around Faith's stomach and the other around her neck.

Faith wonders how many vamps have been tricked by the softness of Buffy's skin; have felt her hands on them and given in slightly, instead of sensing the strength in her arms.

"Show them how to escape," Buffy says, although Faith's already testing her weight. With a quick move, she slips away and twists Buffy's arm behind her back. Buffy's legs press against hers, tensing slightly before Buffy retaliates.

They never fake their blows. Each time she showers, Faith counts her bruises and presses her fingers against them, bringing on a dull ache. And a bruise the size of her fist peeks out on the band of skin between Buffy's pants and tanktop.

Buffy moves toward her again, and Faith grins, mirroring the smile on Buffy's face. Bring it on.


She used to imagine fucking B. Maybe once when she pushed her too hard, instead of reaching out with her fists, Buffy would hurt her with her mouth. Substitute one kind of passion for another; replace a sharp elbow to the chest with her back slammed against the wall, Buffy's fingers in Faith's hair.

Fuck tenderness, fuck love, fuck everything but that. Fuck.

And when Buffy started to moan, grinding into her wildly, Faith would whisper, "See how strong we are?"

She still daydreams of that occasionally, but these days her dreams seem to be drifting into new territory. She imagines lying on her back, fingers drifting along soft satin as Buffy curls into her; waking up in their cocoon of sheets and limbs.

Their eyes meet and Buffy's lips curve into a sad smile. We're only separated by skin, she thinks.

The next morning, while Faith pours herself a bowl of milk and sugary cereal, she can feel Buffy's eyes lingering on her back.

"Sleep well?" she asks. At the table, Dawn and Sara sprint through homework they didn't do the night before. It's not the kind of domesticity, the Pope would smile at, but it's closer to it than anything Faith is familiar with.

"Never better," Buffy says with an expression Faith doesn't recognize.


They live pretty much like an island. Willow writes regularly and Giles calls once a week, but Buffy admits that she feels like he's checking up on her. "He worries about me too much."

Xander only contacts them occasionally. They don't talk about it, but every time Willow mentions him in an email, Buffy flinches.

Sometimes you have to get away, have to prove yourself out of someone else's shadow. That's something Faith understands, even if Buffy can't.

In her room, Faith still paces out the length of a jail cell and has moments of complete panic, when she can think of nothing but new territory and new faces.

But, they live the kind of life you make up forself when you're a kid: daily ice cream cones, take-out for dinner and watching movies until four in the morning before passing out in a heap.

She's obviously spent too much time with Angel, because she always imagined that her moment of redemption would be obvious, surrounded by prophecies and fanfare and dead bodies.

But she's starting to think it might be quieter than that. Maybe it's enough to stay.


Rome's vampires don't know what to make of the two slayers.

Apparently, Italian slayers don't talk as much. And these guys are old, and used to their ways. They run away slowly, moving each limb individually. It's almost enough to make Faith miss the energy of the California teenage vamps, who liked to trade barbs and blows, instead of slipping into the ground.

They're chasing one of the more spry guys when he disappears.

"There must be a crypt around here somewhere," Buffy says as she kicks the ground.

Faith looks around in frustruation, feeling the energy of the chase still pumping through her veins. Wasted adrenaline is like foreplay without the orgasm.

Buffy stands up next to her, her face all in shadows. To love a vampire, you have to be a little bit in love with death and it's the same for Buffy. You have to be willing to risk blood.

Faith reaches her hand out, stroking the butter soft edge of Buffy's coat. Buffy's eyes meet hers, widening slightly, lips open. Faith's next move is a strategic attack. She slips her hand around Buffy's waist as she leans forward, pressing her mouth against Buffy's.

Buffy freezes for a second, but Faith doesn't pull away and after another second, she kisses back. Tongues and hands working furiously, Faith backs Buffy into the nearest tree, tearing the skin of her knuckles open on its bark.

She takes the lead, and runs her hands over Buffy's ribs, feeling the hard ripples of muscle. Faith reaches for the zipper of her jeans and the sound of it is strangely loud. Buffy's body tenses.

"This is deja vu all over again," she mutters.

"What are you talking about?" Faith asks.

"This. Sex in a graveyard," she says in a voice laced with anger.

"I didn't see anyone making you do anything."

"Faith, c'mon--"

Faith interrupts her, "No, Buffy. I don't think so. You wanna be safe and only let yourself care about a fucking city, that's your thing. But don't act like it's because you're so much better than everyone else."

"It's not that," she says in a quieter tone. "I spent the last ten years in a warzone. You know what that's like, what it costs you. And right now, I can't do anything but the basics. I need to remember how to live like other people. If it matters, can't the other things wait?"

A sudden memory of Riley comes back to her: his fingers moving across her skin lightly, reverently, the casual `I love you' whispered into her ear.

Four years ago, she would've told Buffy to act more and think less. But that's not Buffy anymore and that's not her anymore. There was a good slayer and there was a bad slayer and somewhere along the line, they met in the middle.

"I got nothing but time," she answers and a smile breaks across Buffy's face.


The first guy she ever fucked told her he loved her.

"You and me, forever," he said, pressing his palm against her cheek.

She sat up, unpeeling herself from his skin, sticky with sweat. Faith could barely move without banging her head against the top of his car. She craved fresh air, and an escape from his hands, always reaching out for her, always there.

"You're crazy," she said, slipping on her pants and bra. She struggled with the clasp of her cross before giving up and tucking it into her pocket.

"Faith," he called after her as she left. The air outside tasted like ice, sharp on her tongue.

Later she would wish she'd taken him up on his offer, instead of laughing in his face. It would be the last time anyone would ever offer her romance.

And the next week, she met a stranger in the park, who told her she had a destiny. Maybe she should've laughed at that instead.


For one weekend, the apartment empties. Dawn takes the baby slayers to see Giles for a demon history cramming session, and all of a sudden silence replaces their teenage giggles and nightly training sessions.

After searching through the cabinets and only finding cookies and peanut butter and frozen waffles, they buy slices of pizza and eat them on the street.

Standing with the weak sunshine on their faces, Faith remembers what she loved about Boston winters. It wasn't that she loved the cold, but she loved knowing that spring was on its way. There was nothing quite like walking out on the first warm day and feeling the breeze on your arms, tasting sunlight.

It was easy to get used to California's never-ending warmth, but it took the surprise out of the weather.

Buffy buys a strawberry ice cream cone and they find a patch of green grass and sink into it. Faith catches the drips of strawberry from the cone with her tongue, watching Buffy.

"Do you ever miss it?" Buffy asks.


"Being the only ones. Knowing that the world relied on you- well, I guess the world would've been in trouble if it was relying on you."

"Being our own class, you mean," Faith says, and Buffy's about to correct her when she sighs and leans back..

"I'm not sure I know what my part is anymore."

"That makes us even then because I never knew what mine was."

For years it felt like the only part she played was the foil to Buffy's perfection. She resented Buffy's skills, her speed, her friends, even her tormented romances. And then for awhile, it seemed like maybe it was better to have nothing, because then you had less to lose.

They both have something to lose now.

"We'll figure it out," she tells Buffy with confidence. "After saving the world, how hard can it be?"

Buffy doesn't answer, but she leans her forehead against Faith's shoulder, and watches the crowds walk on.


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